Pure Beauty and Elegance in Puligny-Montrachet

Today’s Story: Domaine Leflaive

It’s hard to believe more than a year has passed since I reviewed Domaine Leflaive’s 1995 Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet, so revisiting this great estate is long overdue.

Domaine Leflaive is a very highly regarded winery located in Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy. While origins of the estate come as early as 1717 with Claude Leflaive, the winery as it is today seems to begin with Joseph Leflaive (1870-1953). Initially working as a naval engineer who helped develop the first French submarine, Joseph cared for his family’s vines in Puligny-Montrachet following his marriage. Thanks to phylloxera, many of the vines needed dramatic replanting and many of the produce at the time sold to wine merchants. Thus, in the 1920s, Joseph replanted the parcels of his estate and started selling wines under his own label.

When Joseph died in 1953, Domaine Leflaive came under the control of his four children (Jo, Vincent, Anne, and Jeanne) and the family desired to maintain the winery at the peak of excellence. Jo, an insurance underwriter by trade, took over the administrative and financial management of Domaine Leflaive while Vincent, an engineer who studied management and business, covered the vineyard, wines, and commercial side of the business. Over time, Domaine Leflaive produced some of the greatest white Burgundy wines and continues to be a family endeavor. In 1990, Vincent’s daughter Anne Claude became joint manager with Jo’s son Olivier and the two learned from Vincent until his death in 1993 and Anne Claude was named manager.

Much changed at the estate since the 1990s, though it is still run by the family. Today’s steward is Brice de La Morandiere, Anne Claude’s nephew and great-grandson of Joseph Leflaive. Brice’s largest contributions so far include the updating of historic buildings on the estate and enhancements to the winemaking process that include new corks to allow for prolonged aging of the Domaine’s wines.

To wrap up, I will leave you with a brief conversation on the farming and winemaking practices of Domaine Leflaive. Leflaive practices biodynamic farming in an effort to understand and appreciate all natural phenomena that ultimately strengthen the immunity of their vines. They tend to their soil with the use of products made from vegetable, animal, and mineral matter at certain points during the annual cycle, while working the land by tilling and scraping. Further, Leflaive practices organic cultivation of the vines. You can read more in-depth on their practices here.

Today’s Wine: 2007 Puligny-Montrachet

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2007 Puligny-Montrachet is transparent and an absolutely gorgeous deep gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, this stunner reveals aromas of golden pear, yellow apple, white peach, honeysuckle, toffee, flint rock, white pepper, hazelnut, brioche, butter, and vanilla cream. The complexity continues onto the palate with notes of crisp golden apple, ripe pear, lemon zest, white florals, almond, crème brûlée, honey, dill, chalk, and toasted oak. This is medium-bodied with racy medium (+) acidity and a well-rounded mouthfeel into a long, long finish.

Price: $200. This is one of those wines with a price tag that makes your eyes pop, however it reminds you of the greatness white Burgundy can be and that Leflaive produces. This could undoubtedly be a 1er Cru from a number of other producers, and is certainly worth the hit to your wallet.

Young but Immensely Promising Puligny-Montrachet

Today’s Story: Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils

The history of Domaine Bernard Moreau began in 1809 when Auguste Moreau built a cellar near the Champs Gain vineyard for ease when farming his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, under Marcel Moreau that the family’s holdings started to grow exponentially. For instance, the domaine today operates on 14 hectares of vineyard land (9 hectares they own, 5 hectares they farm) and about 80% of that land was acquired by Marcel. Bernard Moreau took over the vineyards and cellar during the 1960s (at the age of 14!!) and the name “Domaine Bernard Moreau” came in 1977 under guide of Bernard and Françoise Moreau. With Bernard and Françoise at the helm, the domaine updated their winery, farming methods, and equipment in addition to buying more land to get to that 14 hectare total number. Their sons Alex and Benoît joined the team to help with winemaking and in the cellars, with their first vintage being 1995. From 1999 onward, Alex took over winemaking responsibilities and Benoît specializes in the vineyards.

The winemaking style at Domaine Bernard Moreau is best described as “hands off.” Like most estates producing exceptional wines in Burgundy, Alex and Benoît take a view that terroir should be the forefront of a wine and therefore they must care for the vineyards. While the farming practices at the domaine are characterized as sustainable (not organic or biodynamic), they use organic fertilizers with the soil and do not use pesticides. Also like many great estates, Moreau utilizes rigorous pruning, debudding, and green harvesting in an attempt to lower yields that are more expressive of the terroir. During aging of the wines, Alex uses 10-50% new French oak barrels (depending on wine and vintage) for 12-20 months (also depending on wine and vintage). For the Pinot Noir, Moreau does not rack, filter, or fine the wines at all.

Domaine Bernard Moreau produces a broad range of wines, and I highly suggest trying some of them. From the Bourgogne Blanc and Rouge to their Aligote and up through the multitude of 1er Cru Chassagne-Montrachet to the big-daddy Bâtard-Montrachet, I have not met a wine I didn’t like.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Puligny-Montrachet

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Puligny-Montrachet is medium golden yellow in color and fully transparent. Given about 45 minutes to an hour to blossom in the glass, the wine showcases a nose of golden pear, lemon zest, white peach, stone fruit, white lily, light smoke, brioche, and hazelnut. Moving to the palate, I get notes of green apple skins, honeydew, lemongrass, honeysuckle, mild green herbs, flint, and roasted nuts. This precise wine is medium-bodied with high acidity and a long finish.

Price: $105. This is a great bottling from the wonderful 2017 vintage and I certainly recommend picking up a bottle or two. The quality and promise of this wine will reward those who are patient, but this is already an incredible wine for the price.

Bit by the Burg Bug

Once you’re hooked on white Burgundy, there’s no going back.

Today’s Story: Etienne Sauzet

Domaine Etienne Sauzet found its origin in the early 20th century when Etienne inherited and purchased additional grape vines in the village of Puligny-Montrachet. A family endeavor throughout its history, the domaine has operated under four generations and became modernized under Etienne’s granddaughter, Jeanine Boillot, and her husband Gérard Boudot. The efforts by Jeanine and Gérard include improved vinification techniques and a transition to biodynamic farming. Currently, Jeanine’s daughter Emilie and her husband Benoît Riffault produce the wines.

Comprised of 15 hectares distributed on Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Cormot-le-Grand in the Hautes côtes de Beaune, the domaine produces an assortment of white wines. Like many producers, Sauzet offers a regional Borgogne but also produces Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet villages, nine 1er Crus (including the one I am reviewing today), and four Grand Crus. Sauzet’s Grand Cru sites include Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, and Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

When seeking out a white Burgundy to be the first wine for dinner with a good friend, I was very excited to find this bottle which happens to be my first from Etienne Sauzet. In appearance, this wine is a gorgeous, crystal-clear pale gold. As the wine opened up, enthralling aromas of pitted melon, honeysuckle, white florals, flakey vanilla pastry, Manchego cheese, white chocolate, and cotton candy (!) leap from the glass. My eyes, as well as my friend’s, nearly popped out every time we took a sniff. On the palate, we got flavors of stone fruit, lemon zest, baked green apple, white pepper, butter, and seaside minerality. Utterly complex and still way too young, this wine is full-bodied with mouthwatering high acidity that culminates into an oily yet luxurious mouthfeel. I will buy more to lay down.

Price: $160. This is an outstanding value for 1er Cru white Burgundy. Already drinking beautifully, the age-worthiness of this bottle makes it a staple in any cellar. Pair this with shellfish, particularly lobster. It even went well with our Italian sausage bruschetta.